Beanpole

Beanpole ★★★½

There's a feeling I think most filmgoers get when a scene feels too happy to be in the film you're watching and you know instinctively that it's setting up tragedy. Beanpole is a parade of these scenes, a bleak Russian drama that introduces humanity to postwar Leningrad only so it can break it down. I did not expect predictability to be a complaint I'd have with the film but its plot points are so thoroughly telegraphed that it undercuts their impact.

It's a one-note film by and large and that note is a really unpleasant one. Glacial pacing and the consistency of mood make it an exhausting 134 minutes. All that taken into account I should hate it but I actually nearly rated it even higher than the 3.5 stars I settled on. The pair of lead performances are believable and lived in. It's a very well made film with tactile cinematography, you can practically feel the texture of the clothing just by looking at it. The telegraphed moments I mentioned are predictable but a few of them are also unforgettable. I don't want to spoil anything but I'll say that the toddler scene, a shared cigarette on a hospital bed, and a perverse sexual encounter Almodovar would be proud of provide truly remarkable moments. Recommended even if just for those scenes but not one I'd be eager to revisit.

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